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Jan 25

House to Astonish Presents: The Lightning Round Episode 7

Posted on Tuesday, January 25, 2022 by Al in Podcast

It’s time for another adventure with the Marvel Universe’s most neurotic super… er… heroes? Villains? Something along one of those lines, or possibly both. Anyway! We’ve got Graviton, Charcoal, and the addition of a crucial element of the Tbolts mythos, plus: A pug in a hoodie! Some French! An old lady from Elgin! It’s all go around here.

The podcast is here, or here on Mixcloud, or available via the embedded player below. Let us know what you think, in the comments, on Twitter, via email or on our Facebook fan page. And since it’s not yet the done thing to walk around without a shirt on, why not let us help you avoid that scenario by buying one of our great tees?


Bring on the comments

  1. Moo says:

    Admittedly, I’m not a wrestling fan, but I was under the impression that the peak of WWF was the Hulk Hogan era in the ’80s. Marvel’s “Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation” was created in ’85 and I remember thinking at the time “What is this crap?” followed by “Oh, yeah. Because wrestling is popular.”

  2. Josie says:

    This was a kind of dark period for Busiek, when he brought in a bunch of lame ’80s villains without doing any work to make them interesting: Graviton, Kulan Gath, Count Nefaria, Madame Masque, Terminus . . .

    I do like what Nicieza did with Graviton in the book a few years later, though.

  3. BringTheNoise says:

    This episode doesn’t seem to be appearing on Apple podcasts.

    @Moo: The 80s Hogan boom made the WWF a national/international name and established it as the premier wrestling brand in the USA, but the late 90s “Attitude Era” was when they made the most money, sold the most tickets (on a per show basis), had their highest TV ratings, etc.

  4. Omar Karindu says:

    I rather liked what Busiek did with Graviton, which was to take the idea that he was a generic megalomaniac with no distinguishing traits and have Moonstone utterly wreck him by simply pointing out how shallow and stupid his motivations were.

    And, of course, the underlying irony is that Moonstone can point this out precisely because she is a shortsighted psychopath, so she’s good at sussing out others’ weak spots but terrible at considering the long-term implications of anything she does.

    This makes her not that different from Graviton: less grandiose, but no more capable of real self-examination or meaningful motivation. She doesn’t have a much deeper or more defined sense of purpose than Graviton does, as Jolt keeps pointing out.

    Now, the Kulan Gath, Masque/Nefaria, and Ultimo stuff in Iron Man and Avengers — some of which crosses over into Thunderbolts, though mostly after Busiek leaves….yeah, I definitely feel that’s all just playing with nostalgic toys, and doesn’t really go anywhere.

  5. Adam says:

    Emphasizing that Graviton, despite being an Avengers D-list villain, nevertheless represents an immense challenge to weaker protagonists is a trick repeated by Bendis in his MOON KNIGHT run.

  6. Moo says:

    @BringTheNoise – Okay, thanks for the clarification.

  7. Ryan T says:

    There’s some amount of argument that can be had about Hogan era vs Austin era but especially if you add in the then peaking WCW (with Hogan as one of the main attractions), wrestling was never as popular as 97-98.

  8. Joseph S. says:

    Maybe this is a problem with my app, but this episode hasn’t turned up on my RSS feed yet, FYI.

  9. Eric says:

    Hi, someone above mentioned the episode not yet appearing in Apple podcasts. It’s not on Google Podcasts yet either.

  10. Al says:

    It hasn’t showed up on Spotify either. I’ve gone back in to the hosting site and tried pushing it live again, if that doesn’t work I’ll hit up their helpdesk.

  11. kreetrapper says:

    I had the same issue, but now the episode shows up in my feed. Thanks for fixing it, Al.

  12. Joseph S. says:

    Showed up on my RSS feed as well. Cheers, Al.

  13. Josie says:

    @Omar Oh geez, somehow I completely forgot he wrote Iron Man too. That run was a swing and a miss, which is a shame because there is no reason it should’ve failed. It had good art and good guest art, Busiek seemed to love the character, the supporting cast, and the rogues . . .

  14. Chris V says:

    I think you’re way too hard on Busiek’s Iron Man.
    That was the last time I found the Iron Man comic worth reading.
    If you thought the Busiek Iron Man run was a failure, then the last quality run on the Iron Man would have to be the Denny O’Neil run from the 1980s.

    I thought it was sad that the last time Iron Man had a purpose for having his own comic was all the way back during the Busiek days.
    Otherwise, Iron Man hasn’t been able to warrant his own title for nearly forty years.

    Kieron Gillen almost managed to write a strong Iron Man series, but that was ruined by the bizarre decisions to ret-con Stark’s parents.
    Even Gillen failed to make Iron Man a readable comic.

  15. Matt Terl says:

    Pretty sure the Dennis Schoolcraft guy is Busiek himself — it looks not UNlike him, and I’m guessing “Schoolcraft” is a bus, as in BUSiek…

  16. Omar Karindu says:

    Matt Teri said: Pretty sure the Dennis Schoolcraft guy is Busiek himself — it looks not UNlike him, and I’m guessing “Schoolcraft” is a bus, as in BUSiek…

    There was a fan named Roger Schoolcraft who used to turn up a lot in 1970s Marvel letter columns, so it could be a reference to him as well.

    One of Roger Schoolcraft’s suggestions from a letter he sent to the original, 1970s What If? series was even used as a plot idea in the late 1980s through 1990s revival series, for which he got credit.

  17. Mark Coale says:

    Dreadknight also had an action figure from the mid 90s Iron Man cartoon.

    Schoolcraft’s book is “the Dark Side of Marvels” which would seem to be a nod to Marvels.

  18. Josie says:

    “Otherwise, Iron Man hasn’t been able to warrant his own title for nearly forty years.”

    I have no idea what it means for a character not to “warrant” their own title. I just didn’t like Busiek’s run. That’s all I said.

  19. Chris V says:

    It means, “Why does Iron Man deserve his own title in the 21st century?”.
    I haven’t seen any reason for that character to be in continuous publication for a the past 23 years other than the fact that Marvel has published a comic starring the character since 1963.

    Busiek’s run was the last point where I felt Marvel was justified to publish an Iron Man comic rather than simply publishing a monthly Iron Man comic because it’s something they’ve been doing tor almost fifty years now.

  20. Chris V says:

    Mark-There was also a Dreadknight Marvel heroclix figurine.

  21. Moo says:

    I didn’t much care for Kurt’s IM run either. I didn’t think it was terrible. Just found it to be a bit on the dull side.

  22. Chris V says:

    It wasn’t a masterpiece like O’Neil’s tenure.
    Do you like Iron Man? Do you often read the Iron Man comic?

    I feel like Busiek’s Iron Man is one of those “you needed to be there” moments.
    The Iron Man comics published before and after the Busiek run were such objectively poorly written stories that Busiek’s run felt like Marvel was finally publishing an actual Iron Man comic again, not some cheap imitation version.

    My perception of Busiek’s Iron Man will always be considered in the light of those times.
    The “teen Tony” stories were truly some of the worst comic books I have ever read.
    The Mike Grell run (which followed Busiek) was actively offensive.
    I don’t feel that Marvel has ever gotten the character correct again since then, even if the stories haven’t often been as objectively horrible as “teen Tony” or Mike Grell.

    The most interesting use any writer has found for Tony Stark since Busiek has been to completely tear the character apart in order for him to serve as a commentary on the George W. Bush administration.

    Warren Ellis did understand the character, but he wrote the book for a five issue story-arc.

    Marvel’s characterization of Stark has evolved from a Capitalism-boosting corporate CEO to the more palatable (for many readers) depiction of a futurist, which is closer to the character from the movies.
    I find this funny because Iron Man has so little to tell the reader about the future for this being the character’s main motivation.
    It’s the drawback of the shared universe where change is very rarely allowed to occur. How do you portray a futurist in a stagnant universe?

  23. Moo says:

    “Do you like Iron Man? Do you often read the Iron Man comic?”

    I don’t know who you’re asking. Whether you’re asking Josie, me, or no one in particular.

    In the event you’re asking me, there was a time back in the mid-eighties when I owned a complete run of Iron Man, including a cherry copy of ToS #39. Pages were still white and everything, and I still get angry thinking about how I ended up parting with it too soon. Don’t ask.

    So yeah, I am (well, was) a huge Iron Man fan but I haven’t read him (or much of anything in years).

    But, like I said, I found Kurt’s run to be a bit dull. It was a quantum leap above what preceded it in the ’90s but that wasn’t a very high bar to clear.

  24. Chris V says:

    Oh, sorry. I was asking you, yes. It looks funny with an indefinite pronoun.

    Yeah, I don’t think Busiek’s run looks as strong compared to Denny O’Neil or the pre-1980s period.
    I look at it as the last time that the Iron Man comic was truly worth reading.

    Sadly, the Iron Man book in the 21st century still hasn’t been able to clear the bar set by Busiek.
    Only short-lived bursts like the lone Warren Ellis story-arc showed any potential.

  25. Moo says:

    Honestly, I don’t regard the O’Neil run as a masterpiece either. It was certainly eventful, no question. Significant things happened in O’Neil’s run (Rhodey donning armor, Tony getting a new set of armor, which was huuuuge deal at the time). But I didn’t think it was nearly as good as the Michelinie/Layton run (which I do hold in very high regard). Like, not even close.

    And O’Neil just rehashed the alcoholism story (which I liked better the first time when Michelinie did it) and cranked it up a few notches.

    i also didn’t like the idea of Rhodey becoming a superhero (incidentally, neither did Kurt Busiek, for the same reason I’m about to explain). Before Rhodey donned armor for the first time, he served as a grounding influence on Tony. To help him keep one foot in the regular world while his other foot was in the world of superheroics. Generally, that’s meant to be the function of non-superheroic supporting cast members.

    But once you slap spandex or armor on those characters and make them superheroes themselves, then you’re trading that functionality away just to get what is esssentially a knock-off character.

  26. Chris V says:

    I was never a fan of Michelinie‘s run.
    I found it full.
    It lacked a clear overarching purpose.
    Granted, this isn’t necessary to a superhero serial narrative and was lacking in most stories from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
    However, it also lacked the fun of those types of superhero stories.

    I found “Demon in a Bottle” highly problematic. It was an important story, as O’Neil needed that background for his vision.
    Michelinie‘s story was the shallow, Hollywood version of alcoholism.
    “Oh, and Tony Stark is an alcoholic for this Very Special story.”

    O’Neil’s run was so great because it deconstructed Tony Stark before rebuilding him and showing what made him a true hero.
    Stark is a very unlikeable person.
    He made his fortune selling weapons to the military.
    He came to regret it and said, “Whoops! My mistake. I won’t do that anymore.” and faced no consequences for his prior actions.
    That’s realistic, but it’s not conducive for a superhero comic.

    O’Neil’s run saw Stark’s past come back to haunt him.
    There was no easy out for him this time.
    He lost everything.
    He hit rock bottom and had to claw his way back out.

    Stane is a perfect foil because he’s the old Tony Stark, before Stark found a moral conscience and gave up manufacturing weapons.
    He’s the cut-throat Capitalist who will do anything so long as it makes him a profit.

    James Rhodes works so well in this story because he’s a much more likeable protagonist than Stark.
    Stark is a superhero out of egoistic self-interest. He wants to protect what’s his, and if he helps others in the process, that’s an added bonus.
    Rhodes is a more traditional heroic figure.
    Stark never had “one foot in the regular world” like most other superheroes. He’s a billionaire playboy.
    Stark’s supporting cast was always to portray the role that Stark is a corporate CEO, and not a typical superhero like Peter Parker.
    Rhodes was the “everyman”, but in a way very different than Spider Man’s supporting cast.

    At the end of the story-arc, Tony has been humbled but is now deserving of the role of hero.
    Instead of a CEO of a transnational mega-corporation, he’s a partner in a startup tech company.
    The money he inherited and the money he made from the government is gone.
    Stark has been rebuilt as an actual hero.

    Also, the characterization of Stark as he is recovering from alcoholism is so entertaining.
    O’Neil actually understood alcoholism and the seriousness of the disease. Michelinie was simply playing.

  27. Chris V says:

    *I found Michelinie‘s run DULL, not “full”!

  28. Moo says:

    Well, tomayto tomahto, I guess.

    I’ll just clarify that by “regular world” I meant the side of Tony’s life that didn’t directly deal with superheroes and supervillains. His business and personal life.

    And um, is there any reason you constructed that post like a poem? Is that for dramatic effect or is something up with your space bar?

  29. Chris V says:

    I was writing on my phone. I think it messes up the width of the screen, among other annoyances.
    I would enjoy writing a prose poem about my enjoyment of Denny O’Neil’s Iron Man.

  30. Adam says:

    @ChrisV DO IT!

  31. New kid says:

    Iron Man is the least represented marvel hero in my collection. He doesn’t do much for me outside of the Avengers.

  32. Luis Dantas says:

    Denny O’Neil’s run was definitely more daring and IMO much more interesting than David Micheline’s. Micheline’s second run, particularly, was very by-the-numbers. Nostalgic as I am of true ongoings, the format was showing its age even back in the 1980s.

    Micheline’s first run had some good plots going, but was very light on character development. His second run was just light.

    Denny O’Neil, by contrast, did some of his best writing ever on Iron Man – and had the strangely often underrated pencils of Luke McDonnell to back him up for much of that time. The two of them created a fascinating slow-burn tale of two men going through changes way beyond their controls, which I guess is to this day against the grain of Iron Man’s most frequent character concepts.

    I quite liked Kurt Busiek’s take on Iron Man, but it was perhaps a bit too colored by its circunstances. It was a crawling back from the ashes of 1990s excesses and it may have turned out a bit too idealized.

    Busiek’s Tony is very much a sage, a borderline living saint that just happens to also be a scientific and business genius at the side and, oh, also one of the most powerful, reliable and experienced mainstays of the superheroic community of his reality. He would be a Marty Stu if his personality wasn’t consistently very humble and supportive.

    At that point in time that was very refreshing. But it may not work too well as an ongoing character concept in a shared universe. It becomes difficult to believe that other characters won’t react to such obvious wisdom in clear, definite ways.

  33. Skippy says:

    I love Songbird’s wrestling heel dialogue. I wish writers would still write her that way.

    I am enjoying the current run of Iron Man well enough, but it’s the only time I’ve ever really followed the book.

  34. David Goldfarb says:

    As regards whether Hawkeye was a hot character who would increase sales, I honestly don’t think that factored in. Hawkeye is a long-time favorite character of Busiek’s, as well as very relevant to the story of reforming supervillains, and I feel certain that Busiek had intended to bring him in as a leader for some time, if not from the very beginning.

  35. Ronnie Gardocki says:

    For what it’s worth, I’m enjoying Cantwell’s run on Iron Man. I’ve found Iron Man at least readable for the past 15 years with the exception of the Slott and Bendis runs.

  36. Josie says:

    “I feel like Busiek’s Iron Man is one of those “you needed to be there” moments.”

    I was there. I didn’t like it.

    No fictional character “warrants” ongoing publication. Many of them have ongoing publications anyway. So what?

  37. Josie says:

    “I’ve found Iron Man at least readable for the past 15 years with the exception of the Slott and Bendis runs.”

    I recent Bendis’s run for the first time recently. It was surprisingly readable. There are huge problems with it (“I’ll call them the “biohack ninjas,” which it turns out is also what they’ll start calling themselves.”), but at the time Bendis was writing some of the worst material of his career (Civil War II), a lot of his run was surprisingly enjoyable and free of his recurring problems as a writer. It even has a conclusion, which is something Bendis almost never accomplishes.

    Slott’s run, I gave it four issues and gave up.

  38. Chris V says:

    The most glaring problem from Bendis’ run on Iron Man is a massive Mary Sue named Riri Williams somehow ending up as the new Iron Man.

    It wasn’t quite as bad as “teen Tony”, but was edging dangerously close to that territory.

    I agree this isn’t a problem solely with Iron Man. However, the discussion revolved around the Iron Man comic.
    I was arguing that the last time it felt like the writer had a reason to write an Iron Man comic (outside of one story-arc written by Ellis) was Busiek writing it.


    Ronnie-I agree with you that Marvel has worked to improve the Iron Man comic within the last fifteen years.
    I’d agree that outside of Bendis and Slott, the book has been readable.
    However, each of those periods also suffers from a major flaw which hurts the book from becoming something greater than an Iron Man comic for the sake of publishing an Iron Man comic.

  39. Josie says:

    “the last time it felt like the writer had a reason to write an Iron Man comic”

    That’s every time. Every time a writer accepts the assignment to write Iron Man, they have a reason.

    “each of those periods also suffers from a major flaw which hurts the book from becoming something greater than an Iron Man comic”

    I don’t know how an Iron Man comic could be greater than an Iron Man comic. I didn’t know there was a hierarchy of character-specific publications.

  40. Josie says:

    For the record, I’m not actually saying Slott’s run was bad. Prior to reading his Iron Man, I read through his entire Spider-man run. I was surprised how much worse I found his post-Secret Wars 2015 volume compared with the rest of it, given that it had so many interesting high concepts. The problem tended to be that he had an expansive supporting cast, each of whom got very little screen time and development, and that the character of Peter Parker seemed to get shuttled off to the background in favor of exploring the new status quo and (ugh) the Zodiac.

    At the start of his Iron Man run, I noticed those last two things: way too many supporting cast members with very little development and screen time, and a deemphasis on Tony Stark the character in favor of exploring the status quo. Those aspects didn’t interest me.

  41. Chris V says:

    Yes, every time a writer accepts an assignment they have a reason, and that reason may be money.
    That doesn’t always make for a conducive situation to creativity. It’s far more problematic when a character has been published for close to sixty years now.

    Wow! You did some nice “creative” editing again. This isn’t the first time you’ve done this when you have no actual rebuttal to something a person is writing.

    So, you didn’t realize there is a hierarchy of a publication featuring multiple creative teams?
    So, in your head Shakespeare and Tom Clancy are on the same level as far as literature? There’s no way to judge literary ability or merit.

    The question is, does a writer have anything interesting or different to say about Tony Stark?
    For most of the writers writing Iron Man in the 21st century, the answer to that question is “no”.

  42. Zach Adams says:

    Really fun ep as always. Much like last time with the Lightning Rods, I am super excited for next month when you have to talk about pre-Priest pre-movie M’Baku

  43. Dial C for Comicraft

  44. My first exposure to Dreadknight was the Waddingtons super villains Top Trumps. Apparently he was more worthy of inclusion than Hobgoblin or Red Skull.

  45. Josie says:

    “That doesn’t always make for a conducive situation to creativity.”

    You realize we’re discussing corporate-owned franchise properties, yes?

    “It’s far more problematic when a character has been published for close to sixty years now.”

    What is “it” here? What precisely is problematic about publishing corporate-owned franchise characters?

    “you didn’t realize there is a hierarchy of a publication”

    Still no idea. Feel free to link me to the source of this claim so I can learn all about it.

    “in your head Shakespeare and Tom Clancy are on the same level”

    Well, I suspect that one is much further in the ground than the other. Other than that, I have no idea what “levels of literature” would mean.

    “does a writer have anything interesting or different to say about Tony Stark?”

    Chuck Austen had plenty of different things to say about the X-Men. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

  46. Daibhid C says:

    To be honest, I had no idea Shakespeare or Tom Clancy had written Iron Man.

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